Project Scarlett: what we know so far about the next Xbox

Guardian Technology 10 Jun 2019 01:30
Project Scarlett, the next Microsoft gaming console, will be released during the 2020 holiday season. Photograph: Étienne Laurent/EPA

There still isn’t much that’s clear about Project Scarlett, Microsoft’s follow-up to the Xbox One, which was revealed for the first time at the E3 conference in Los Angeles on 9 June. But we do have some answers.

We know a collection of technical specs: the new console will include a custom CPU, based on the Zen 2 architecture created by AMD, a well as GDDR6 Ram, a fast new standard of internal memory, and even an SSD for internal storage, the first time a traditional console has moved from the cheaper spinning disc platters of the PS4 and Xbox One.

We know some of what that means for players. The console will push positively ludicrous numbers of pixels, enabling 8K resolution – that’s 7680 × 4320 pixels, and, despite the name, roughly four times the resolution of a 4K screen – at 120 frames per second. It also supports high-end graphics features such as ray-tracing for the first time, bringing ultra-realistic lighting effects to home consoles. More prosaically, the combination of the SSD, CPU and memory should slash loading times, promising an end to staring at slowly filling progress bars.

Perhaps that’s why Microsoft is so stubbornly sticking to those small fragments of information. What will Project Scarlett look like? We don’t know. How much will it cost? No answer. What about the further tech specs: how many cores in the new CPU, how much of that delicious GDDR6 Ram, how large will the SSD be? Don’t bother asking.

The new mantra, delivered repeatedly, is “The games you want, with the people you want, anywhere you want”. The console, Microsoft is saying, isn’t the point any more: sure, you can play Halo Infinite on the Scarlett, but if you want to play it on the older Xbox One, you can. And if you want to play it instead on Project xCloud, you can do that instead. The intention is clear: Microsoft wants everyone to play its games, whether they have a new Xbox, an old one, or even no Xbox at all. The company is finally ploughing real money into its PC gaming division, as well as enabling people to play console-quality games on their mobile phone through streaming.

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